So where was I? Ah yes, blogging. Well, another month has gone by in the blink of a sleep-deprived eye and the tumbleweed has started collecting on the Model Mother site. Let’s blame Mercury being in retrograde rather than the baby – no, it’s definitely not been the 8 month sleep regression, the onset of separation anxiety, the fact she’s now on the move and has sprouted numerous teeth in recent weeks that has stopped me in my tracks, it must be planetary alignment. 

Two thirds of a year spent predominantly in the company of an infant whose chat is restricted to single syllables on repeat means my mind feels like it’s turning into a bit of a wasteland too. I wish I was the cool mum, inclined to talk about stuff outside of sleep, boobs and poop but these little creatures are quite an all-consuming occupation that don’t leave a huge amount of scope for mind-expanding experiences.

With that in mind, I decided last week that something needed to be done about it. I need to up the ante on my mum chat before my already flakey baby brain disintegrates altogether and so I’ve decided to take a MOOC. Not familiar? Nor was I until Mr E introduced me to them the other day (I think he’s had enough of my whining about maternal monotony (speaking of monotony, have you noticed how much alliteration of the letter M can I fit into one post??). MOOC sounds like the sort of nonsense word that does come out of my mouth all too often at the moment but what it actually stands for is Massive Open Online Course. Basically, they are courses that you do online, they’re open to everyone and, get this, they’re free. Yep, todos gratis, which came as a surprise to me and yet they’re put together by experts and often endorsed by leading universities and cultural institutions. They don’t provide qualifications but they’re a great way to read around a subject and to dabble in education again without the pressure of exams or coursework but just because you want to learn something new. You can purchase a certificate for a meagre £34 at the end of the course to prove your interest – great if you want to show your boss how keen you are if it’s career related or to prove how dynamic you are if it’s something totally random, like ‘How To Write Your First Song’, for example. The fact they come free means you can do it just for fun, because seriously people, this is actually my idea of fun these days.

That said, I haven’t exactly branched out with my first MOOC: ‘Babies in Mind: Why the Parent’s Mind Matters‘ which is hosted by Warwick University. I figure if I’m going to talk about something at length I might as well do it with a bit of authority and chuck in some well-sourced nuggets of information based on insight other than my own, current, muddle-through existence which doesn’t count for a lot in the vast sphere of child psychology.

I’m on week one of four and it takes four hours a week, most of which I have completed, so far, on my phone, headphones on, while sat in bed with the littl’un asleep on me. They start on set dates and everyone who signs up is encouraged to introduce themselves, say why they’re interested in the course and then participate in the forums by making comments on what they’ve watched and read. This course, unsurprisingly is filled with health visitors, midwives, nursery workers and mums like me and there are hundreds of them so I feel I’m in good company and there is some interesting chat floating around.

I’m a sucker for documentaries; watching Panorama gives me a kick, so this predominantly video-led course tickles my inner geek’s fancies and makes me feel all nourished on an intellectual level. It’s been a while – I don’t watch the news as much as I should these days for fear it’ll show some poor child in a refugee camp and set me off sobbing, and reading is limited to titles by Jane and Allen Ahlberg.

This is certainly not just for entertainment though. This is nitty gritty stuff: the first week’s course includes a lecture about the experience of children in Romanian orphanages during the Ceauşescu regime as an example of how neglect affects the development of children under two years old. It’s backed up by documentary footage that comes with a distress warning, that follows the progress, or more accurately, the lack thereof, of a child in a Russian orphanage. This is not for the faint-hearted (and I thought the refugees had me going…). It’s the sort of stuff that makes you work harder at being a decent parent.

This course is still on topic, of course, but once this one is ticked off I’m planning on branching out, perhaps into something a bit more ‘lighthearted’, less tear-jerking. I’ve signed up to a film production course and am considering one called ‘Brand Storytelling: How to Use Narrative to Sell’ led by D&AD but the options are endless: ‘How To Read a Mind, ‘Maths for Humans’, ‘Moons’, ‘Identifying Food Fraud’, ‘How to Build a Sustainable Fashion Business’, ‘Why Do We Age?’ ‘Football: More Than a Game’ (there you go Mr E, one for you), ‘Dental Photography in Practice’… ok, maybe that’s a bit niche, but you catch my drift. When dinner parties finally re-enter my social calendar, and I’m determined they will at some point, there will be no-stopping me. I’ll be able to talk about literature, the universe and offside rules with the best of ‘em (probably with a bit of baby talk thrown in for good measure).

* There are plenty of MOOC providers but I’ve used whose website is very user-friendly and mobile-optimised in case you’re learning on the hoof (or in bed). The ‘Babies in Mind: Why the Parent’s Mind Matters‘ course is live now.


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